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Visitors Bureau picks new chief executive

Martha Sheridan, newly picked chief executive of Boston Convention & Visitor Bureau.
Martha Sheridan, newly picked chief executive of Boston Convention & Visitor Bureau.

The Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau’s board on Friday picked Rhode Island tourism honcho Martha Sheridan to be its new chief executive, succeeding longtime chief Pat Moscaritolo in 2019.

Sheridan will join the Boston tourism bureau in January as CEO-elect from the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau, which she has run since 2006, and officially take over when Moscaritolo retires on Feb. 14 after nearly three decades in the job.

“Now it’s on to Boston, a cosmopolitan hub full of iconic landmarks and attractions, diverse neighborhoods, vibrant culture, prestigious universities, and of course feverish sports fandom,” Sheridan said in a statement. “Boston’s blend of tradition and cutting-edge innovation creates a unique dynamic that is the essence of the city’s brand.”

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The board originally had been looking to hire a chief operating officer who would become Moscaritolo’s likely successor. But after being criticized for not having any minorities on their short list of candidates, board members restarted the search process and also decided to search outright for a new CEO as Moscaritolo’s retirement approached.

Sheridan was among the finalists in the first search and rose to the top after a second, more extensive round of vetting. The board used SearchWide Global, a St. Paul-based headhunting firm, to find candidates after restarting the search.

James Carmody, incoming chairman of the visitors bureau board, said the board also doubled the size of the search committee, from nine to 18, to diversify its membership. And the bureau considered a number of minority candidates during the second round, he said. Carmody said SearchWide and the committee narrowed a group of about 200 candidates down to seven, and then to two.

“We dramatically increased the diversity of the candidate pool,” said Carmody, who led the search committee. “It was a vigorous process. It was a diligent process.”

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Carmody, who is the general manager of the Seaport Hotel, said he was impressed with how Sheridan reached into Providence’s neighborhoods to find attractions to promote, going beyond the obvious choices. She also demonstrated political acumen, he said, an important trait for the job. And he was impressed with what her colleagues in Rhode Island said about her.

“One of the things I kept hearing about was the longevity of the service of her team,” Carmody said. “She had great loyalty. That speaks to an individual’s leadership capabilities.”

In Boston, Sheridan will take over a tourism bureau with a staff of more than 40 people, and a $13 million-plus annual budget. The bureau had considered moving from its home at Copley Place, but it will remain there after recently agreeing to a new lease.